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Jill hesitantly came into the volunteer office looking for a job. At first, she said she wanted to volunteer, but after we sat and chatted for a bit, she opened up and said that she thought volunteering might lead to employment. She has been looking for a job for over a year and was getting desperate. She told me that she was “going crazy” day after day, applying for employment and not getting any real leads. We’re going to accept her happily, because as I told her, “if you want us to consider you for a job, then you’ll be on your best behavior.” She assured me that she would be.

Times are really tough and it is heart wrenching to see so many people out of work, especially when they hope that by volunteering they might get the chance to climb out of the unemployment abyss. Will they make bad volunteers? Not necessarily, but to expect them to give in the same way someone who has benefited from our organization’s services is wrong. They have a dragon breathing over their shoulders, and will leave at a moment’s notice if a job is offered. But while they are with us, they can not only help our organization, but help themselves as well. They can focus on someone else for a bit and give themselves a break from worrying. They can network while they are out, and the boost in self esteem is helpful. Getting up and having some where to go does wonders for the psyche. Volunteering on a resume may not get them a job offer, but it certainly won’t hinder their chances.

Jill had just missed the first three of the six volunteer classes we require, but I told her to go ahead and come anyway. She promised that she would make up the first three at the next series of classes in another part of town. Not only did Jill complete the three remaining classes, she came to all six in the other part of town for a total of nine. She blossomed when she started the series of classes from the beginning and having three classes under her belt, she became a knowledgeable contributor. When she told me she wanted to go ahead and complete all six classes with her group, I was quietly thrilled. She told me later that she is very worried that she doesn’t have the stomach or temperament for this type of volunteering. She is very hesitant, but is excited to try. Her self esteem has been bruised by so many employment rejections and I hope that she will find some measure of success in helping our patients and families.

I truly hope she finds a job soon. When that day comes, and Jill leaves us, I will feel that we had a small but significant impact on her life. Often we can’t measure the good work that accompanies our job. The most profound change may not be for the benefit of our charges, but for the volunteer who finds something of great worth in volunteering for us.